Iran Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Human rights violations are common in Iran, and hundreds of people are executed each year. The country has a functioning electoral system, but the prisons also house political prisoners, often after substandard trials. B loggers and journalists are threatened and imprisoned. Social media is monitored and newspapers are usually closed.

Abbreviated as IRN by Abbreviationfinder, Iran has elected bodies, such as a parliament, and elections are held, but the country’s religiously founded constitution – a Shi’ite Muslim creation unique to Iran – sets limits for parties and candidates. The Guardian Council, which consists of religious scribes and lawyers, stops candidates who are not considered clean. However, the country’s religious minorities – Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians – are guaranteed a few seats in Parliament.

  • Countryaah: Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Iran, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.

Women have the right to vote, are eligible and can be appointed to important positions. Since the introduction of Islamic State in 1980, Iran has had several female vice presidents. Women’s influence is still limited in everyday life. The labor market is gender-segregated and morality policies intervene in clothing that is not considered sufficiently decent. Anyone who defies the command to wear a shawl (hijab) can be arrested. Taekwondo practitioner Kimia Alizadeh, bronze medalist at the 2016 Olympic Games, announced in early 2020 that she (Iran’s first female Olympic medalist) had chosen to go into exile because of female athletes being oppressed.

Honor killings are explicitly condemned, yet at the highest level. However, in connection with a notable fall 2020, there was debate in Iran’s media that it is not reflected in the legal application, where mitigating circumstances can be invoked. When the case, in which a father murdered his teenage daughter, a new law was intended to protect children and young people in preparation, but the bill had repeatedly been thrown back and forth between Parliament and the Guardian Council.

Opposition politicians, union activists, journalists, environmental activists, bloggers, students and members of religious minorities can expect to be monitored and have problems if they disregard the regime. Persecution against dissent also does not end at the borders of the country; In several countries in Europe, Iranian authorities are criticized for not leaving regime critics in exile in peace (see Calendar).

On Transparency International’s list of corruption rates in the countries of the world, Iran in 2019 was ranked 146 out of 180, see list here. The State Revolutionary Guard is surrounded by corruption charges, especially as the military organization is also responsible for large business operations. The same goes for the charity foundations, bonyads, which manage huge assets (see Financial overview). Corruption is being discussed as a problem in Parliament as well, and it is the case that Iranian media are noticing that those close to power holders have been favored (see Calendar).

Freedom of expression and media

In connection with the 40-year commemoration of the revolt against the Shah, which took place in 1979, Reporters Without Borders stated that 860 journalists were arrested in Iran during the first 30 years after the revolution. Several have been executed. In recent years, annual reports have said that between 30 and 50 individuals with media connection are being held captive.

Vague wording about “revolt against Islam” or “propaganda against the regime” can be cited as a reason. Warnings and threats of prosecution lead to self-censorship. Foreign media, such as the British BBC and the American New York Times, have also complained about countering Iran’s employees. It appears that relatives of Iranian journalists abroad are subject to harassment by Iranian authorities.

Both newspaper owners and individual journalists are persecuted if they publish material that the regime dislikes. The situation deteriorated since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005 and especially after a wave of protests in 2009 (see Modern History). Then, for the first time, the security agencies introduced preliminary censorship of newspapers.

Reporting from demonstrations already occurred in 2009 mainly on social media and was largely communicated via mobiles. Afterwards, the laws were tightened against social media and internet publishing and popular forums were blocked. A Data Crime Act from 2010 limits the right of expression and strengthens monitoring. Internet operators must filter traffic and block networks for mobile telephony.

After President Hassan Rohani’s take-over in 2013, there was hope for a more open media climate, but the hopes have not been met, on the contrary. In 2020, Iran ranked 173 out of 180 countries in the journalist organization Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Ranking, see list here.

Despite the restrictions, there are several news agencies and both conservative and reform-friendly newspapers and weekly newspapers. The conservatives include Kayhan, who is also published in English. One of the reform-friendly newspapers is Shargh, which has been closed several times by the authorities.

Most Iranians derive their information from the state radio and television monopoly. The company (Irib) broadcasts radio in some 20 languages. Television broadcasts are directed partly to the surrounding Arab world and partly to the outside world in English via the satellite TV Press TV. Many families have satellite dishes despite the risk of fines: the state power is saved cultural influence especially from the western world, not least because it is considered to encourage morality.

Judicial system and legal security

Iran is one of the countries that executes the most people. In 2019, according to Amnesty International, there were at least 251 executed during the year. In 2018, approximately the same number of death sentences were enforced, and then there had been a reduction: It was reported that the courts had raised the threshold for when drug offenses should be seen as so grave that they justify the death penalty, so that there have been fewer people executed. The death penalty is also applied for serious violent crimes. More recently, people convicted of serious financial crime have also been executed (see Calendar).

Homosexuality is also severely punished. With the support of a revised Criminal Code passed in 2013, judges can choose not to sentence minors to death, but there are reports that they still exist.

Often, the trials are held behind closed doors, without a defense lawyer. Many convicted persons are subjected to public punishment.

Oppression against the opposition and peaceful protesters worsened in connection with a controversial presidential election, 2009. Following protests, members of ethnic and religious minorities have been arrested. Anyone who tries to help someone runs the risk of being arrested. “Confessions” are forced out with torture and long times in isolation cell.

The leadership of the judiciary is appointed by and is closely associated with the country’s religious leaders. The legal rules are unclear and some crimes are described in terms of “violations of Islamic values”. People who are considered to threaten the security of the country are brought before revolutionary courts, where prosecutors and judges are often the same person and the verdict cannot be appealed.

The representatives of the judiciary are behind a large part of human rights violations. Former chief prosecutor in Tehran Said Mortazavi was sentenced in 2017 to two years in prison for being responsible for the death of a demonstrator in 2009. Only six months later, after MPs noticed that he was still on his free foot, he was taken to prison.

Organizations such as Human Rights Watch criticize the treatment of prisoners in the notorious Evin prison and point out that there are secret detention centers operated by the justice system and the Revolutionary Guard. The testimonies are many about abuse, rape, torture and death in prisons.

One of Iran’s best-known human rights activists is Shirin Ebadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. In 2006, the government declared that Ebadi’s human rights defense center was an illegal organization and in 2008 the office was closed. Ebadi’s peace prize medal was seized and the account with her prize money was frozen by the authorities. Ebadi now lives in exile. Another well-known dissident is the lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who represented opposition politicians after the elections in 2009. After several trips in the justice system, she was sentenced in 2019 to prison with a long sentence (see Calendar).

Iran Crime Rate & Statistics



The Foreign Minister is dismissed

Ahmadinejad dismisses Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki. The cause is believed to be a power struggle between them. New Foreign Minister will be Ali Akbar Salehi, who was the head of the nuclear energy program.


Nuclear scientists are killed

Nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari is killed and his wife injured in an attack in Tehran. On the same day, another nuclear engineer was injured in another attack in the capital. Again, suspicions are directed at Israel and Western powers.


Bloggers are imprisoned

Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan is sentenced to 19 years in prison for “anti-state” activities.

Explosion attacks in the Kurdish region

Dozens of Iranians are killed and over 80 injured in a blast attack on a military parade in the Kurdish city of Mahabad.


Nuclear power plants receive fuel

Russian engineers are starting to fill the reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant with fuel.


Terrorist attack in the Southeast

More than 20 people are killed and 100 injured in a suicide attack against a mosque in Zahedan in southeastern Iran.

Enhanced EU sanctions

The EU restricts Iranian banks ‘activities in the European Union and stops European companies’ exports to Iran of equipment that could be used militarily.

Deathstones are limited

The government announces that women convicted of adultery can still be sentenced to death, but they should no longer be stoned to death.


Sunni terrorist leader is executed

The leader of the Sunnite movement Jundullah is executed in Tehran. Abdolmalek Rigi, who was arrested in February, must, among other things, have admitted blast attacks and murder.

The UN tightens the sanctions

The United Nations Security Council adopts a resolution on US arms embargo on Iran ‘s proposal and stricter penalties for companies that could help Iran develop its nuclear know-how.


Nuclear technicians jump off

An Iranian nuclear engineer, Shahran Amiri, jumps off to the US and contacts the CIA intelligence service.


New offer for controlled enrichment

Turkey and Brazil are proposing that Iran enrich its uranium in Turkey and return it as fuel to a research reactor. The United States is against the proposal.

The IAEA believes in nuclear weapons manufacturing

The IAEA claims to have credible evidence that Iran has tried to manufacture nuclear warheads.

“Success Sticks Enrichment”

President Ahmadinejad says the country has managed to enrich uranium to 20 percent pure uranium.


Protesters executed

The first two executions of arrested protesters are carried out.

No thanks to the IAEA offer

Iran refuses an offer from the IAEA to abandon low-enriched uranium and, in exchange, get ready nuclear fuel.

Nuclear physicists are murdered

An Iranian professor of nuclear physics is killed in a blast attack in Tehran. Iran accuses Israel and the United States of having murdered him.

Protesters killed

A parliamentary committee reveals that three people arrested for participation in the 2009 demonstrations were beaten to death in custody.